Story of Trip 7
Home Up Champagne Night

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Tales of the Rhapsody 2004 Cruise

Chapter Seven:
Captain Teige

Story written by Rick Archer

We Get Invited to Dinner

On the Wednesday Night, the fourth day of our trip, Marla and I were invited to have dinner with the Captain of the Rhapsody, Charles Teige. 

To say we were flattered would be a huge understatement.  That said, I was surprised by the amount of fuss and feathers that seemed to surround our visit.

Marla and I were not the only ones invited.  There were five couples in all.

It seems that all five couples were asked to come early to receive a lesson in etiquette for the dining with the Captain.

Before dinner started, the five couples gathered in the hallway to meet with Jackpot Julie, the Bingo lady who also served as our "Dining Etiquette" coach.

Captain of the Rhapsody Charles Teige seated with Marla and Rick. 

Captain Tiege, the five couples, and Jackpot Julie

The five couples, all passengers, listened intently to Julie's every word.  Never before had I ever received extensive training in how to meet someone. This was a new experience.  

Jackpot Julie said several things, but her main rule was: "Don't touch the napkins!  They are specially prepared for the evening!" 

I noticed that she repeated this instruction two more times.  I raised an eyebrow in curiosity.  I couldn't help but wonder what the big deal was.  To underline her point, just as we began to line up to enter the dining room, Julie reminded us yet one more time.  However, this time she said it with an urgency in her voice that took my concern to a deeper level.  For some reason, her warnings had managed to unnerve me.  'What the heck is the deal with the napkins?' I wondered.  Do alarms go off if you touch them?

We had even been given specific instructions on how to enter single file.  I carefully took up my assigned position as the ninth person to enter.  The formality of the event was very striking.  I felt like a visiting dignitary... which was probably the point.

We gathered around the table.  While we waited for the Captain, I spent my time staring at the napkins.  It seemed to me they were arranged in a way to somehow match of the Royal Caribbean logo (see picture).  I assumed that was the big deal.  What else could it be?

Now the Captain entered with a entourage of at least six waiters plus the Maitre D'.  There was so much pomp and circumstance that I was starting to get nervous. 

Once the Captain joined us, he said not a word.   The man seemed very solemn.  I was feeling increasingly on edge. 

Now the Captain looked left at Marla.  He stared at her for a moment, but said nothing.  Marla was immediately on guard.  What was this all about? 

Then the Captain turned to look carefully at the blonde lady to his right.  Without warning, the Captain got a horrified expression on his face. Suddenly he raised his hands and gasped, "Be careful!  Don't touch the napkins!" 

The woman instantly turned pale white with panic!   She took a step back from the napkins as if they were a snake and lost her balance.  A waiter actually had to step up from behind to steady her as she began to wobble from anxiety! 

The shock got to me too.  I swear I practically jumped out of my socks.  I quickly thrust my hands into my pockets less they touch the forbidden napkins accidentally!

Then the Captain grinned.  That's when I got it - the whole deal was a practical joke. 
Ha ha ha.  Well, guess what, it worked like a charm.  It scared me out of my wits.

Once we all began to breathe again, the Captain smiled at all of us and began to laugh.  He was obviously pleased that his joke had come off so perfectly once again.

The Captain grinned and said "At ease. You are now welcome to touch the napkins. My name is Charles Teige.  On behalf of Royal Caribbean, Welcome to dinner!"

After all the nervous laughter, we slowly began to settle down.  That is about the time the Rhapsody staff photographer showed up on cue to take our pictures.  After a few snapshots, we sat down for our meal.  I grimaced as I noted my heart was actually still thumping a little.

I went to put my napkin on my lap only to realize I was still afraid of the damn thing.

Suddenly I looked up and there was none other than Gary Richardson!  Amidst all this formality, Gary had snuck in right behind the Rhapsody photographer with his own camera.

Gary looked the Captain in the eyes and asked his permission to take our pictures.  The Captain smiled and nodded his approval.

Then Gary said the nicest thing, "After all, Rick is my Captain!"  

The Captain grinned. "Well, in that case, by all means, please take our pictures!"

I was a little embarrassed.  Ah, gee.  I almost gave Gary my special napkin as a thank you. 


Dinner with Captain Teige

Now things began to settle down a bit.  Our group quickly discovered that Captain Teige is actually very down-to-earth. 

Marla was given the high honor of being seated directly on the Captain's left.  Captain Teige spoke to Marla several times throughout the meal and was very gracious to her.  I watched as he chatted with her. 
It seemed to the Captain was a little uncomfortable with the small talk, but knew it was important to keep at it.

An engineer by training, I don't believe dinner conversation comes naturally to him.  Nevertheless, even though I am not sure he enjoys these ceremonial functions, our Captain was certainly trying his best to be a good host.

At the start of the meal, Captain Teige asked each of the couples to
introduce themselves and say a little bit about themselves.

Marla and I listened intently.  We were looking for clues that might explain why each couple - including ourselves - had been granted this honor. 

We discovered one other couple were celebrating their honeymoon.  Okay, they are special because they are newlyweds.  Maybe that's why we were asked. 

Then we found out the couple immediately to the Captain's right was on their 18th RCCL Cruise.  I was impressed!  Eighteen cruises!!  Okay, you guys deserve to be here.  You can stay!  

However we never got the slightest inkling what the other two couples had done to deserve being honored with a seat at the table.  We listened to them speak and didn't hear them say a thing that differentiated them from all the other 2,000 passengers on board.  Marla and I were perplexed. We continued to wonder why we had been included in this select company. 

Marla and I figured we were at the table for one of two reasons.  We had learned there were 96 couples taking their Honeymoon on this cruise - a staggering number!  However, Marla and I weren't just newlyweds, we had actually gotten married aboard the ship.  In addition, one other couple had been married on the ship on the same day.  To our surprise, that couple was not at the table, a fact that contradicted our "got married on the ship" theory.

Another reason we might have been invited would be that we were the leaders of the largest group aboard the ship. With 120 guests, the crazy dance group was leaving their mark wherever they went.  However, none of the other four couples seem to represent any group at all.  So this reason didn't seem to explain our invitation either.

It turned out there was a secret reason we had been invited.  However, we would not find out the real reason until later in the trip.

Now it was time for general conversation.  As I guessed, the gift of gab was not the Captain's forte.  He was a little stiff and struggled for words at times.  Speaking with guests comes naturally to me, so I tried to help break the ice.  I must have asked the Captain a dozen questions to get the conversation going.  I didn't wish to put him on the spot, so I made sure each question was a softball.  I figured sooner or later we would discover a subject everyone could participate in.  However, to my chagrin, my strategy wasn't working.  The Captain and I were doing all the talking.  I began to feel awkward for monopolizing his attention.

Finally one of my questions succeeded.  I asked him if he had a family on board.  Now we discovered the Captain was engaged and that he had a one year old son.  He was very pleased to announce that his bride-to-be plus his son were both with him on this particular trip.  What an unusual life he must lead.  Apparently his family isn't with him most of the time.  As glamorous as a life at sea must seem to us smog-crazed idiots who spend 3 hours a day stuck in traffic on land, even the life of a Captain must have its drawbacks.

Most of the crew does this for a year or two, then moves on.  Captain Teige on the other hand has been doing this for perhaps fifteen years. I imagine the Captain gets a bit lonely at times. 

The Captain decided to change the subject.  He said he had heard my wife and I had gotten married aboard his ship even before dinner started. Congratulations again!  Marla and I both beamed at the acknowledgment.  Now Captain grinned and looked directly at me.  I may have been lobbing softballs, but he threw me a curve.  Captain Teige said he had heard I had lost my shoes before I got married.  Was that correct?  He smiled at my embarrassment and made things worse by inviting me to explain what had happened to all the guests. Oh, lucky me.  Isn't it wonderful to be talk of the ship?

Then the Captain asked if I had ever found my mother.  He had heard from the Staff that one of his guests had been searching for a lost mother in order to get married.  Was that me by some chance?   I blushed from head to toe as each people at the table raised an eyebrow in readiness for my explanation.

Fortunately the conversation drifted elsewhere at this point.  Without me to pick on, the conversation grew polite and very tame.  Boring.  Even the generous offerings of wine didn't completely loosen our tongues.  Well, I suppose the wine did loosen one tongue.

Trying to liven things up, I told a stupid joke about a ship captain's parrot and a magician. 

Everyone laughed politely.  I thought I was the life of the party until I received a serious jab in my rib from Marla's elbow.  Ouch!  That was her less than subtle way of reminding me I was talking too much. 

There was one more odd topic of conversation.  One of the guests had seen the Beatles impersonators and said that was her favorite part of the trip so far.  She said she had died laughing when all those guests had run up on stage and attacked the Beatles.  The lady said in all her cruises, that was the funniest thing she had ever seen.  And it all seemed so spontaneous!   She asked the Captain if those people were crew members or had they found some guests to get in on the act.  It all seemed so authentic!

The Captain smiled.  He said he had heard about that incident as well.  To his knowledge, that attack on the Beatles had not been pre-arranged.  In fact... and now he turned towards me again... he had heard that dance group from Houston had been the culprits.  He asked me if that was correct.

I squirmed in my seat.  Uh, yes, sir, those people who rushed the stage were from my group .  He shook his head in mock dismay.  Then he smiled at the lady and said, "There's your answer!"  Again, the eyebrows raised in expectation of yet another explanation.

Fortunately, at this point, the conversation was interrupted by a command singing performance from our waiters.  Thank goodness.  We all turned politely to watch.

After the singing was over and dinner had ended, I took the time to thank the Captain personally for inviting us to dine with him.  Marla extended her appreciation as well.

To our surprise, he smiled and invited us to join him on the bridge the next evening for a chat.  Marla and I were absolutely stunned.  Of course we accepted.   How exciting!

Uh, no, Captain, I have never seen those people in my life.  


Our Trip to the Bridge

The next evening around 6 pm, Marla and I stood on the bridge watching the Captain skillfully maneuver the ship out of its dock at Cozumel.  We were on an outdoor ledge as the ship began to pull away. 

To my surprise, both Marla and I could hear Gary Richardson yapping away upstairs.  Good old Mr. Windjammer was busy holding court.  That is when I realized the bridge is directly below the Windjammer Cafe.

The Captain noticed our ears had perked up at the sound of Gary's voice.  He laughed and commented he heard that same guy talking in the Windjammer every day. 

That is when I told him the man speaking above us was the same guy who took our picture the day before.  I said he likes to hang out in the Windjammer all day long.  The Captain smiled and rolled his eyes.  "I already knew that."  

After we had pulled away from the dock at Cozumel, the ship gathered speed.  Now we could see the beautiful island retreating in the distance. Marla and I were introduced to the Captain's fiancé as well as his adorable little boy.  They had been watching the departure from Cozumel with us as well.  Now his fiancé gave him a kiss and departed with son in tow. 

The Captain invited us inside the Bridge to have coffee with him. After giving us a tour and showing us the various charts and instruments, he reassured me a repeat of the Titanic episode was unlikely due to modern technology.  He also reminded me that icebergs were rarely spotted in the Gulf of Mexico.

I felt so much better, but still looked around suspiciously in case there were any hidden napkins on the bridge.  You never know where danger might lurk.

Captain Teige pointed to an alcove at the back of the Bridge.  We sat down in this little corner to have a chat.  Captain Teige smiled at us and said he had a story to share. 

It seems that the Captain and I shared a very unique connection which I doubt not one reader would ever guess even if I gave twenty questions.  I'm not sure even Marla would guess. Actually, I am not sure I would have even guessed!  This secret was pretty random.

As the story unfolded, Marla and I learned that as of September 2004, Captain Teige's name appeared in only one place on the entire Internet.  And that was on the SSQQ web site.

Marla and I had been aboard the Rhapsody seven months earlier on a voyage to see Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  As is my custom, I had written about the trip.

Captain Teige had encountered a huge problem on the trip.  I had made a point to compliment him in my write-up on how well he handled things.

It seems a friend of the Captain Teige from a previous voyage had googled his name one day on the Internet.  The search on his name turned up only one hit - the SSQQ Mardi Gras Story.  

As I had explained in my story, during this trip there was a serious accident in the Mississippi River.  Two ships had collided and there was a loss of life.  Unfortunately, the bodies had not yet been found.  The river was closed to traffic until the bodies could be recovered.

This unfortunate development had caused our ship to be diverted to Gulfport instead of New Orleans. The disappointment among the passengers was intense. 

Captain Teige decided to conduct an open meeting with the passengers. He had bravely faced a great deal of anger.  He handled the anger well and calmed everyone down with considerable skill. I was very impressed with his poise under pressure.  Naturally I had complimented his fine work in my story.  Captain Teige said he had read my story and was very grateful for the praise I had given him.  He added that he was delighted to be given this opportunity to thank me in person. 

I asked Captain Teige how he had realized we were on board for this trip.  He smiled and said that Patricia Gaspar had told him... which is how he also knew about my socks and my missing mother.

Aha.  Now it made sense. 

We first met Patricia two years earlier on our initial SSQQ Rhapsody Cruise in 2002.  Patricia was the Social Director for the Rhapsody.  Patricia is not only extremely well organized, she is also quite friendly.  Patricia had been assigned to help Marla with any problems on the first trip.  Not surprisingly, Patricia and Marla had hit it off from the start and soon became friends.  

By chance, Marla and I had run into Patricia for the second time on our Mardi Gras Rhapsody Trip earlier in 2004. Unfortunately, our encounter was at the very last minute on the final day of the time.  That only gave us enough time for a hug, but at least she remembered us.

Now, a few days earlier on our Wedding Cruise, Marla and I had run into Patricia Gaspar for the third time.  We quickly discovered that she had gotten a major promotion.  Patricia, who calls Portugal home and speaks seven languages, had become the Rhapsody's "Loyalty Ambassador". 

It was not much of a coincidence that we saw Patricia.  She had a desk all to herself in the lobby next to the Purser's Desk.  Patricia was smack dab in the middle of the Centrum.  How could we miss her!?

Patricia wasn't busy, so she invited Marla and me to sit down at her desk and catch up on things.  We complimented her on her promotion to Ship's Officer.  She smiled and said thank you.  Then she said she remembered seeing us earlier this year, but we were gone too fast.

That reminded me of something.  By chance, Patricia just happened to have her computer turned on and the Internet was up. I immediately suggested to Patricia that she click on to my web site to see all the beautiful Mardi Gras pictures I had posted.

Patricia grinned broadly at the incredible Mardi Gras pictures.  They were all colorful and some of them were pretty risqué, believe me.

Patricia was so impressed she posted my SSQQ Mardi Gras web site to all the other officers on the ship.  Unbeknownst to me, that included Captain Teige.  Once he realized this was the same web site that had told the story of the Mississippi River problem, Captain Teige quickly put two and two together.  He decided he wanted to meet us.

Marla and I had been flattered just to be invited to dinner, but now we were beyond flattered.  We felt very special to have this busy man take the time to ask to meet us personally.  Such an honor!

From this point, our talk consisted mostly of me asking questions about his career and about the cruise industry.  Eventually we got around to talking about dance. The Captain seemed very curious about my insights regarding the place of dancing aboard his ship. 

I had written extensively about my suggestions for importing SSQQ-style dance lessons and parties onto the
Rhapsody in 2002.  However that had been two years ago.  I had almost forgotten about the article. 

I noticed Captain Teige's questions about dancing were so insightful, I became suspicious.  That is when I realized he had taken the time to read my 2002 article.  There was no other way he could be so knowledgeable about my ideas unless he had already read them himself on my web site. 

So I asked him if he had read my story.  He nodded.  He said he enjoyed my observations about the role of dancing on a cruise and had given some thought to what I had said.

However, at this point, I observed a change in his personality.  The Captain became was very guarded in his comments.  He was in a fact-finding mode, not a deal-making mode.  As a result, the Captain revealed very little about his own thoughts. 

Captain Teige did offer one interesting comment.  He said that his company did not make changes swiftly, but that he intended to have a talk with his superiors about my ideas.

I had the distinct impression there were things he wanted to talk with me about.  However since he did not know me very well, he was reluctant to take me into his confidence. 

I suppose he was reluctant to share his ideas for fear they might appear on my web site, probably a legitimate concern since he didn't know whether I could keep a secret or not. As a result I was left pretty much in the dark about what was really on his mind.

I have a hunch that Captain Teige would like to expand the role of social dance aboard his ship. In fact there is a possibility he may even be ready to suggest to the higher ups that social dance be given a greater role in their social itinerary.  Whether this includes any involvement of our studio I do not know. We never got that far. I only know there was something on his mind that somehow involved me. Anything beyond that is idle speculation.

Our talk lasted an hour and a half. It had been early evening when our talk started and now it was pitch black on the bridge when our talk ended.  We had literally been talking in the shadows for some time.

The Captain ended our meeting with, "I'll be in touch."

Marla and I met with the Captain one more time on the final day of the trip.  During our talk on the Bridge, he said he had always wanted to learn the Tango.  I said I would be more than happy to teach him and his lovely fiancé Isabella.  We scheduled a lesson for Saturday afternoon in the - where else? - Shall We Dance Lounge.  Unfortunately when he appeared alone by himself, I knew there was a problem. He said something had come up.

Instead he invited us to sit with him in the Schooner Bar where we were joined by Gary Richardson.  After Gary said a few words, the Captain frowned and said, "Have we met?  I recognize your voice from somewhere." 

I have never worked so hard to suppress a grin in my life.  The man definitely had a sense of humor.

We sat and chatted for half an hour, but not about anything particularly serious.  The Captain was just being polite and showed no interest in continuing our final line of conversation from our talk on the Bridge.  Then he got up and said duty called. That was the last we saw of him.

During the last couple days of the trip, several passengers asked me why I seemed so distant and preoccupied.  The reason was that I was lost in thought trying to figure out what Captain Tiege really wanted to say to me.  

He spent far more time with Marla and I than was necessary if he was simply being polite.  The flattering invitation to have dinner with him would have been sufficient.  The two extra visits signaled a deeper interest.  My sixth sense hinted there was something on his mind, but couldn't tell me.  My curiosity was driving me nuts.

However, I never heard from him again.  Whatever thoughts the Captain had about expanding the role of dancing on Royal Caribbean ships, I doubt they got very far.  Such a shame.

Rick's Side Note from 2010. 

I have long said that Dance and the Cruise Experience are natural partners.  However, the value of Social Dance is more or less ignored in the current Cruise climate.  I don't honestly think the cruise executives have the slightest idea what a pivotal role Social Dance could play in their fortunes... but I do.

After I returned from my trip in 2004, I sent the Captain a lengthy letter containing my suggestions for the role of dancing on his ship.

Unfortunately I never received further contact from either the Captain or another RCCL representative.  I don't even know if the Captain ever got the letter.

Back in 2004, I said I had a hunch that someday I wished I could play a stronger role in the Rhapsody's entertainment agenda.  I still hold on to that dream.

Unfortunately, here we are 6 years later and my vision clearly has not come true.  Nevertheless, I still believe Marla and I will have the chance someday to boost the role of dancing on cruise ships.

A picture taken from Rick and Marla's 2004 Mardi Gras trip on the Rhapsody.   

After docking in Gulfport, Mississippi, Royal Caribbean was forced
to send us by bus to New Orleans

Next: Chapter Seven A

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